5.01.2013

First World Problems

Photo Credit: http://www.lolhappens.com/67129/first-world-problems-2/

My heart has been troubled over the last few days.  I'm sure by now you've seen the First World Problems Memes floating around the internet.  They're meant to be tongue-in-cheek about the things we in industrialized countries find as concerns that someone in a Third-World country would roll their eyes at--if not be glad to have. 

They've made me laugh a few times over the last few months, but this week, in light of some things God has been showing me, running across this list of them just made me sad.  I couldn't help but think of the season finale of "The Neighbors" (the one where the neighbors are aliens) when Larry Bird says to his alien father that this world is interesting and crazy--half the world doesn't have enough water to support daily life and the other half has so much they pee in it.  What a poignant thought, even if it was meant as half joke, half jab.  Think how richly blessed we are that we have safe tap water! Yet so many people scoff at it and choose to buy bottled water or feel that it has to be filtered to be useable.  Even if you drink your tap water, how many times have to poured half a glass down the drain because it set out for an hour and got warm?  I've been guilty of it.

And even though this attitude has been weighing heavy on my heart lately, this morning when I went to make breakfast, I felt a moment of disappointment when I realized I'd bought plain yogurt instead of vanilla.  I've been guilty more than once of complaining about my iPhone charger cord being too short.  I've had to stop myself from writing a post on facebook lamenting the fact that due to the size/setup of our new house the baby monitor doesn't reach where we'd like it to.  We fuss when the wireless router doesn't have strong enough signal, when Hulu is down, when I get Super Why songs stuck in my head. 

Instead I should be thanking God for healthy and filling choices for breakfast--and the money to buy them, for power in our house and the ability to be connected to my friends and family at any moment, for the wonderful blessing of our new house, for technology that exists sheerly for our pleasure, for educational TV shows that I don't have to worry about my toddler watching.

And like I said, God has been showing me some things.  I've found myself bothered by campaigns that, when compared to people's problems in other parts of the world, seem frivolous. They're mostly good causes and someone needs to be concerned about them...but when you pair a campaign about whether or not to vaccinate your child next to the fact that people of all ages all over the world are dying of treatable diseases; about organic food being overpriced next to the reality that people die of starvation and thirst each day; about every pet deserving a home while children are orphaned by disease and disaster and people are being sold into sexual slavery daily.  It makes some of the things that seem to matter so much seem like First World problems.

God's been interweaving this with another thought to form a heavy concept for me. 

Yesterday I ran across an article from Relevant Magazine called "The Socially Acceptable Sin".  I honestly didn't read the whole thing, but what I read described our culture looking the other way in the face of the sin of gluttony.  The writer stated, "At its simplest, gluttony is the soul's addiction to excess."  That description hurt because not only did it point the finger at my country, but also at my Christian culture, at my loved ones and at me.  You probably don't have to look far to find what you're a glutton for...or for the excuse you use to justify it.  Do you upgrade technology of some kind every chance you get?  Do you spend money you don't have?  Do you covet your neighbor's vehicle?  Home?  Do you have more pairs of shoes than you could ever need?  Buy too many things for your kids?

We've become accustomed to comfort and when you have all you need for comfort, the next step in the human nature is to want more.  While some things may seem justifiable or "not a big deal", by always having a spirit of wanting you are essentially telling God that the portion He has ordained for you is not enough.  That God's Goodness is not good enough.

This tendency comes from a fallen nature, but how can we circumvent it?  By seeking the Lord for our fill.  Remember Audio Adrenaline's song "God Shaped Hole"?  I tend to roll my eyes at that phrase now because it's been so used up in talking about how non-Christians who feel like they are searching for something need to fill their hole with God instead of worldly pleasures. 

But guess what?  Christians have a God shaped hole, too.  When we stray from intimate fellowship with Him on a daily basis, we open up space in our hearts--space we can easily fill with junk.  Look at what the Bible says about filling that space with God instead:

"Taste and see that the Lord is good. Oh, the joys of those who take refuge in him!" Psalm 34:8

"Why spend money on what is not bread,
and your labor on what does not satisfy?
Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good,
and you will delight in the richest of fare.
Give ear and come to me;
listen, that you may live." Isaiah 55:2-3

"I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh."  Ezekiel 11:19
 
 "I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols.  I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.  And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws." Ezekiel 36:25-27
 
"They [the Lord's compassions] are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion;
therefore I will wait for him.”" Lamentations 3:23-24
 
So we remember or relearn to seek God earnestly, constantly.  We look to Him for satisfaction for our souls.  We thank and praise Him for his many blessings.
 
Of course no hard lesson comes without some life change, right?  I've felt a little convicted about our new house.  It's big.  We've justified it by saying that our family isn't finished yet and that we like to have people over and we got a great deal on it.  But it's true that we have always had a little dose of house envy.  Whether someone's house is bigger or nicer looking or laid out better or is in a better location, there's always something better about someone else's house.  When we were blessed with this house I laid in bed on our first night here and offered it to God.  I walked around and prayed over the areas of our house and how God will use them.  Now I pray for how this house can be a tool for love and mercy rather than an evidence of gluttony.  We are working to make this a place that is safe and comfortable for our teens.  We want to allow God to make this a place that travellers can feel at home.  Where friends can come to feel a sense of family and refreshment. 
 
I've been thinking about other ways in my life to waste less, to be thankful more and think of others first.  Ways to ordain not just the things in my life, but my thoughts and myself to God. 
 
What are your First World Problems?  What can you change to be freed from gluttony and complacency?  What's the first step to ordaining your life to God?
 
Finally I'll leave you with the verse that God has been placing in my path over and over in the past few weeks:
Philippians 4:8 "Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things."



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